Stab Magazine | Kelly Slater Opens Up About Sunny Garcia

Kelly Slater Opens Up About Sunny Garcia

“I spent night after night crying, just completely shocked that it happened. I just feel sad. Sunny has such a big heart and he’s really dealt with a lot of pain in his life.”

news // Jun 13, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s been over a month since our 2000 World Champion, Sunny Garcia, attempted to take his own life. Today, Sunny remains in a critical, yet stable condition in an Oregon hospital. According to Kelly Slater, he’s off life support and breathing on his own, but details are scarce as to whether Sunny will make any significant recovery, let alone a full one.

Last week amidst the Margaret River Pro, Kelly Slater caught up with Anthony Pancia from the ABC’s 7:30. As expected, they covered competition, retirement, the pool, even Baywatch, but the most sobering of the discussed topics was when Kelly spoke candidly about Sunny Garcia. 

You can watch the full interview with Kelly Slater, over at ABC’s website, but we’ve extracted a few quotes from the interview below.

“I woke up the morning that it happened to a text message that Sunny had passed away.” An obviously emotional Slater told the ABC. “So, the fact that Sunny is alive in hospital – not on life support currently, I can say that much, he is breathing on his own, we don’t know how incapacitated he will be, but we’ll have to see how that pans out. But the affect on me…I’m still processing it.”

Kelly goes on describing his long-time rival as ‘like a brother’ and mentioning that his oldest daughter, Kaila Toetuu, is his god-daughter. 

Despite holding off his own emotions, Kelly doesn’t shy away from discussing the circumstances which pushed Sunny to a suicide attempt. 

“I always hear these stories and I wonder, ‘Why don’t people talk about the thing,’ because as a human you have interest in these stories,” Slater told the ABC. “You want to hear … you want to hear all the gory details.

“Now that it has happened to a person that I consider to be my brother, I think a lot of it is best left to the family to disclose and talk about.

“I don’t feel like that at all because anything is hidden, I just feel like there is a privacy issue when you have a public person who has done something to try to end their life.”

“I’ve spent night after night crying, just completely shocked that it happened.” Kelly continued. “I just feel sad. Sunny has such a big heart and he’s really dealt with a lot of pain in his life.”

In a seperate section of the ABC interview, Kelly talks about his earlier years joining the circuit, avoiding drugs and alcohol (which no doubt helped him win 11x World Titles), how he ended up on Baywatch, retirement, and of course, that magic Lemoore wave pool. You’ve seen and read about all of these before, but there’s something nice about hearing Kelly speak about it all so candidly. 

Unfortunately the ABC doesn’t let you embed their clips, but head to their site to watch. 

If you’re feeling down, or need someone to talk to, these are some helpful lines you can call.


Lifeline on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36


Beyond Blue on 1-800-3668-288

Suicide Prevention Centre on (310) 391 11253


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